The awesome wonder of Wilpena Pound, Australia
How the cataclysm of Noah’s Flood explains it
Published: 16 June 2016 (GMT+10)
Wilpena Pound1 is a spectacular saucer-shaped plateau perched above the surrounding countryside (figure 1), some 430 km (270 miles) north of Adelaide, South Australia. Ringed by a mountain ridge in the Flinders Ranges, it’s like an enormous amphitheatre. St Mary Peak on the northern side is 1171 m (3840 ft) high, the highest in the Pound, and also in the Flinders Ranges. The features of Wilpena Pound can be convincingly explained by Noah’s Flood, the cataclysm recounted in the Bible that engulfed the planet about 4,500 years ago. In a nutshell, the sedimentary strata visible in the walls were deposited early during Noah’s Flood. Not long after, crustal movements warped and folded those sediments. Later, as the floodwaters receded from the continent, they eroded the Pound and the surrounding landscape.
In the steep escarpment that forms the edge of Wilpena Pound you can see sedimentary layers exposed, and that they are approximately horizontal. Closer up, at Rawnsley Bluff (figure 2), we can see something of the features of the sediments. The harder quartzite2 strata form steep cliffs, while the softer layers form sloped aprons. Geologists have given the different layers different names.3 The sediments forming the Pound have been called the Wilpena Group. From the surrounding countryside to the top of the rim, some 450 m (1,500 ft) of strata are exposed at Rawnsley Bluff.
Most biblical geologists would consider that these sedimentary rocks were deposited early during the global Flood.4,5 One important feature indicating these sediments were deposited in the Flood is their enormous physical size, which is a feature of the gigantic Flood catastrophe. One aspect of size is geographical extent.
The strata exposed in the Pound’s walls form part of a much larger sedimentary deposit called the Adelaide Geosyncline, which is a huge belt of sediments (with minor volcanics) that covers a large area of South Australia as shown in figure 3. Physically, it is 500 km (300 miles) wide (west to east) and 650 km (400 miles) long (north to south). Various geological units can be traced right across this geographical area.6
Large as this is, the sedimentation affected an even greater area than the Adelaide Geosyncline. It is now considered that, geographically, these sediments are part of an enormous depositional system that covered much of Australia at that time. There are many other sedimentary basins having a similar timing, as shown in figure 3.7 Geologists have proposed the individual basins are the erosional remnants of a super sedimentary basin enclosing all these basins, which they have dubbed the Centralian Superbasin. This is exactly the sort of enormous sedimentation that we would expect to find from the effects of Noah’s Flood cataclysm.8
The other aspect of size is the thickness of the sediment pile. In places, the sedimentary sequence in the Adelaide Geosyncline reaches a thickness of 24 km (15 miles).9 In other basins it is not unusual for sediments to extend to a depth of 10 km (6 miles) or more. Thick, deep sedimentation like this is what we would expect from Noah’s Flood, as the floodwaters rose on the earth.
The sediments visible in the top of the pound that form steep cliffs are called the Pound Quartzite, which is a hard, well-cemented sandstone with minor shale bands. It displays cross beds, which indicate it was deposited from flowing water.
An aside on the ages of the rocks
When we interpret the geology of any area on earth from a biblical perspective, it is necessary to disregard the million-year ages that uniformitarian geologists assign to the rocks, and consider only the physical evidence. The relative ages they have worked out are a different story. Usually the relative ages are based on a number of empirical considerations, including field relationships, and are helpful. Geologists do change their conclusions on relative timing from time to time as new information emerges, so it is important always to be alert for inconsistencies and problems as we interpret the evidence within a biblical framework. When these emerge we should consider whether the assigned relative ages are the cause. However, the published relative ages are generally helpful to biblical geologists.
The ‘absolute’ numbers of millions of years for the ages are a different matter. It is worth remembering that rocks do not come with labels on them stating their age. Uniformitarian geologists10 assign these numbers by considering a smorgasbord of criteria, and applying a non-empirical philosophy. The overriding goal is to fit the rocks into the long-age evolutionary scheme. This philosophy starts with an old, untested commitment by the mainstream geological fraternity to the idea that Noah’s Flood never happened. However, there is abundant evidence that it did, and that the million-year ages assigned are far too long. (For more information see How dating methods work and related articles.)
Uniformitarian geologists say that deposition of the sediments of the Adelaide Geosyncline began in the Late Precambrian and ended around the Cambrian (figure 4 shows the uniformitarian scheme with its terms/labels). In their scheme, that is from 870 to 540 million years ago.11 Most biblical geologists consider these sediments were deposited early in Noah’s Flood.
When biblical geologists consider the timing of rocks in biblical history, they begin with the biblical record and develop geological models that take this into account.13 The most significant event of biblical history for the exposed geology of the earth is Noah’s Flood, which impacted the whole world.
After the sediments of the Adelaide Geosyncline were laid down, movements in the crust of the earth deformed the sheets of sediment, producing folds, like the wrinkles in a blanket when pushed from the sides. This folding generated the spectacular structure of Wilpena Pound. In the Pound the sediments are bent down in the middle and up at the edges, like a saucer. Downward folds, as in the middle of the Pound, are called ‘synclines’, while upward folds are ‘anticlines’.
Geologists have named this crustal movement the Delamerian Orogeny. The enormous energy connected with these tectonic movements also generated volumes of molten magma that formed igneous intrusions, such as the granites of Victor Harbour and the eastern Mt Lofty Ranges.
Based on relationships between geological structures in the field, the folding took place between the Cambrian and Ordovician (see figure 4). This was early during the Flood as the waters were rising. Noah’s Flood was a year-long cataclysm that unleashed enormous crustal and tectonic movements that began with high energy and continued throughout the cataclysm. These movements progressed as the crust of the earth was recovering from its initial upheaval and moving toward a new equilibrium.
The folds created at this time are dramatically revealed in geological maps (figure 5) and aerial photographs (figure 6) of the area. (For more on folding of the earth and how it points to Noah’s Flood see Warped Earth.) The oval shape of the pound is obvious in those pictures. Also visible are parts of other elevated ridges which run through the area, illustrating how twisted the sediments have become.
Erosion of the landscape
After the Adelaidian sediments were deposited and folded, early in the Flood, the cataclysm continued as the earth’s crust adjusted towards a new equilibrium. This caused the floodwaters to move repeatedly across the earth and to keep rising on it. Sediments that geologists describe as Palaeozoic and Mesozoic (figure 4) were deposited as the floodwaters rose, covering large areas of Australia. These included sedimentary deposits around Sydney (called the Sydney Basin), the coal-rich sedimentary deposits in north Queensland (called the Bowen Basin), and the sediments covering most of eastern Australia (called the Great Artesian Basin), which extends into South Australia. Sedimentation would almost certainly have been deposited over the Adelaide Geosyncline, but there are only erosional remnants remaining in the vicinity today.
The floodwaters reached their peak somewhere around the end of the Cretaceous (figure 4—it varies, depending on the geographical location).14 At this time the whole of Australia would have been covered by water kilometres deep. Geologists recognize the continents of the earth were inundated at this time, and they refer to this water as ‘inland seas’ or ‘epeiric seas’. However, they do not connect these seas with Noah’s Flood because they do not believe Noah’s Flood was a real event, and because the dates of millions of years throw them off. Nor do they recognize that these seas covered the entire continent because they do not appreciate that much of the sediment deposited in these seas was eroded away, as we are describing in this section.
Through this period, the earth’s crust continued to move, entering a phase where the ocean floor began to gently sink relative to the present continents. This caused the waters to recede from the continents into the expanding ocean basins. This eroded the continents. It was the erosion at this time (during the Tertiary,15 figure 4) that exposed Wilpena Pound. We can think of this erosion proceeding in two phases.
The first phase was when the landscape was covered in water. According to computer simulations, without confining mountain ranges, powerful oceanic circulation likely developed at this time.16 This eroded great thicknesses of rock material from the continents over wide areas, producing flat surfaces of a large geographical extent, called planation surfaces. Also, as the waters were receding in wide sheets they eroded flat planation surfaces.
The second phase was when parts of the continent emerged above the surface, and the floodwaters were forced to flow in wide channels. As the floodwaters continued to drop, the size of these water channels would reduce, until the water was fully drained. This channel flow eroded wide valleys and water gaps through mountains and plateaus.
Evidence for receding floodwater at Wilpena Pound
From the geological cross-sections (figure 7) we can see that kilometres of material have been eroded from the land surface. This is to be expected from the receding waters of Noah’s Flood.
Uniformitarians don’t believe in Noah’s Flood, so they imagine that the entire landscape was eroded by the weathering processes we see happening today, but these processes do not explain the evidence. That is, by rainfall on the land, disintegration of the rocks by weathering, material falling out of cliffs and embankments, soil movement on sloped steep landscapes, and by flowing water eroding the surface. And so they imagine it took millions of years.
However, the walls of the Pound are steep and have very little broken rock debris around them (see figure 1 and 2), also called talus, or scree. This lack of talus indicates that the erosion of the Pound did not happen over millions of years but occurred recently and that the eroded material was carried out of the area. This is what is expected from the receding waters of Noah’s Flood.
Also, there are places around Wilpena Pound where the creeks flow through the hard quartzite ridges rather than around them. Bunyeroo Gorge about 10 km (6 miles) north of the Pound is one example, and Brachina Gorge, about 20 km (12 miles) north is another (figure 8). These creeks flow straight through the hard quartzite ridges from east to west. This feature is called a water gap, because the water of the creek flows through the gap, although these creeks only flow occasionally because the area has low rainfall. It does not make sense that these feeble creeks carved these huge gorges through the tall, hard ridges. Instead, they were carved by something that we do not see happening today. That process was Noah’s Flood, and the creeks are using the water course carved by that process. Water gaps are a tell-tale signature of Noah’s Flood. (The article Do rivers erode through mountains? explains water gaps in more detail.)
Some of these remarkable features of Noah’s Flood can be seen using a maplet tool17 with Google maps, which colours different elevations on Google maps with different colours. Figure 9 show a terrain view of Wilpena Pound and the surrounding region. The red area indicates the elevated Flinders Ranges.
The pale green and pale grey areas show land above 580 m (1900 ft) in elevation. This represents the surface that was planed flat when the waters of Noah’s Flood covered the whole area. It would have once been an extended plateau but it has been dissected as the floodwaters dropped in level and flowed in wide channels, chopping it up.
Of interest are the Brachina and Bunyroo Gorges, water gaps that cut through the higher, harder quartzite strata. The gorges themselves appear as yellow in the figure, indicating they sit below 400 m (1300 ft). To the east (right) of the gorges is a large orange area, indicating where the water would have impounded behind the water gaps as the floodwaters were receding. 20 km (12 miles) further north the larger Parachilna water gap also cuts through the range.
Summary and Conclusion
The sedimentary strata visible in the walls of Wilpena Pound were deposited from sediment-laden, high-energy, flowing water early during the year-long Noah’s Flood, about 4,500 years ago. Later, these sediments were twisted, folded and pushed around by crustal movements as the Flood proceeded. There was lots of erosion from the top of these sediments at this time. Other sediments were then deposited on top (not now present or visible) as the floodwaters continued to rise.
Then, after the floodwaters peaked, when they covered the whole continent, the floodwaters eroded sediments (kilometres in thickness) from the surface of the land, exposing the folded rocks underneath. This would have happened due to fast circulating water currents when the waters were sitting kilometres deep above the continent. It would also have happened as the floodwaters flowed off the continent into the Southern Ocean. As the floodwaters continued to recede and reduced in level they eroded the landscape. Resistant rocks like those forming Wilpena Pound were left standing tall, along with other resistant rocks in the area. You can see that these form the tall ridges in the area.
The many water gaps that cut through the hard quartzite ridges in the area point to their being carved by the receding waters of Noah’s Flood, and not by slow-and-gradual erosion by rainfall over eons of time. Also, the minimal quantity of loose rock debris (scree or talus), at the bottom of the steep escarpments of the Pound indicate the area was eroded rapidly in the recent past and not slowly over millions of years. Once again, this matches the receding phase of the Flood which eroded the area and carried the material away.
The amazing, wonderful Wilpena Pound provides remarkable evidence for Noah’s Flood. And that changes the way we look at the world, and our place in it.
References and notes
- A ‘pound’ is an English name for an enclosure to hold stray animals. Return to text.
- Quartzite is a very hard rock consisting of sandstone where the silica (quartz) grains are cemented strongly together with silica cement. The silica cement could be produced by metamorphism, where the sand grains recrystallised, or it could be due to silica filling the spaces between the grains. Return to text.
- These names are changed from time to time with ongoing geological exploration. The Australian Stratigraphic Units Database, Geoscience Australia, keeps track of published stratigraphic names. Return to text.
- Hunter, M.J., The pre-Flood/Flood boundary at the base of the earth’s transition zone, J. Creation 14(1):60–74, 2000; creation.com/pre-flood-boundary. Return to text.
- Dickens, H., and Snelling, A.A., Precambrian geology and the Bible: a harmony, J. Creation 22(1):65–72, 2008. Return to text.
- Thompson, B.P., Precambrian Basement Cover: The Adelaide System; in: Parkin, L.W. (ed.), Handbook of South Australian Geology, Geological Survey of South Australia, pp. 49–83, 1969. Return to text.
- Lindsay, J.F., Heavitree Quartzite, a Neoproterozoic (Ca 800–760 Ma), high-energy, tidally influenced, ramp association, Amadeus Basin, central Australia, Australian J. Earth Sciences 46:127–139, 1999. Return to text.
- Walker, T., The Sedimentary Heavitree Quartzite, Central Australia, was deposited early in Noah’s Flood, J. Creation 29(1):103–107, 2015. Return to text.
- Ludbrook, N.H., A Guide to the Geology and Mineral Resources of South Australia, Department of Mines and Energy, South Australia, p. 29, 1980. Return to text.
- Uniformitarian geologists seek to explain what happened in the past geologically using processes that we see happening today (such as rainfall, erosion, sand on beaches). They deliberately deny that the global Flood of Noah’s day happened, and thus they invoke long periods of time to explain things. Because the past cannot be observed, it is an arbitrary philosophy, not empirical science. Return to text.
- The uniformitarian ‘age’ for the base of the Adelaide Geosyncline is not firmly established. Return to text.
- There is not a one-to-one relationship between the column and Flood rocks because the criteria used to place rocks within the evolutionary column are not always applicable to a Flood classification. See Oard, M.J., The geological column is a general Flood order with many exceptions, J. Creation 24(2):78–82, 2010; creation.com/geologic-order. To assign rock units to biblical history the geology of each geographic location needs to be considered on its merits using biblical classification criteria. Return to text.
- Walker, T., A biblical geological model; in: Walsh, R.E. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 581–592, 1994; biblicalgeology.net. Return to text.
- Using the geologic column like this to describe the peaking of the Flood at the top of the Cretaceous is helpful and convenient, but there is not a one-to-one relationship between the column and Flood rocks. That is because the criteria used to place rocks within the evolutionary column are not always applicable to a Flood classification. See Oard, M.J., The geological column is a general Flood order with many exceptions, J. Creation 24(2):78–82, 2010; creation.com/geologic-order. The geology of each geographic location needs to be considered on its merits from a biblical Flood perspective. Return to text.
- Tertiary is a term that has recently been dropped from the stratigraphic chart, but it is still a useful term. Return to text.
- Barnette, D.W., and Baumgardner, J.R., Patterns of ocean circulation over the continents during Noah’s Flood; in: Walsh, R.E. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 77–86, 1994. Return to text.
- Can be accessed at heywhatsthat.com. Return to text.
Hi Tas, I was surprised to read " the sedimentary sequence in the Adelaide Geosyncline reaches a thickness of 24 km". In my mind this means the land before the sedimentation was 24km below the surface of the water or, sank rapidly as sediment was laid down. It seems an incredible thickness? What scenario can create such a thick layer of sediment?
Yes, the deepest parts of the sediments are an incredible thickness, which points to the enormous catastrophic nature of deposition early in the Flood. Wikipedia has an article on the Adelaide Geosyncline which tabulates the sequence of sediments. The Pound Subgroup is described as "massive sandstones", which points to high energy processes. Other sequences are described as glacial, because they contain huge pieces of broken rock and striations. But this is incorrect and they are better interpreted as vast underwater sedimentary mass movements—underwater avalanches—again, pointing to very high energy processes. The sinking of the crust would have occurred as the sedimentation proceded.
It us my understanding of water movement that the closer one gets to the water boundary (here, the surface on which the water is sitting), the less the movement, basically due to drag - unless the movement is turbulent, rather than laminar (in layers). If that is true, one would not expect a great deal of erosion of the land surface - unless the water was flowing quickly enough, or the land surface was rough enough, to cause turbulence. Is there a reason to believe that the circulating currents would have been moving quickly enough, at the level of the boundary layer, for erosion to occur?
[Tas Walker responds: We see the effects of water erosion on dams, spillways, and watercourses today with water flows that are only a fraction of what happened during the Flood. Research presented at the International Conference on Creationism entitled "Patterns of Ocean Circulation over the Continents During Noah's Flood" indicates that the water velocities were likely very high. Also, the flowing water carried along rocks and sediment which would have acted like intense sand blasting. Cavitation is another mechanism that likely caused rapid erosion. You should be able to find information by searching creation.com searchbox.]
The same question could be posed about the rising and receding waters. Was there so much water that it would have to have risen and drained very quickly, in order for that quantity of water to move the required distances in the time available?
[Tas Walker responds: The timing of the changes in water level during the Flood is given in Genesis.]
Against this, would it also be true that the sedimentary rock formed during the flood would still have been relatively soft, and so would have eroded quite easily, and thus would not have needed quickly-flowing, turbulent water to erode?
[Tas Walker responds: Possibly. There is evidence of sediments being folded while they were still plastic. But the rocks would become hard quite quickly (e.g. due to cementation and metamorphism) as a result of the large pressures and forces acting on them. But the flowing water would still have eroded them quickly.]
Regarding the lack of scree at the base of the escarpments, could it not be said that this was washed away by a large flood in the more-distant past? Would it have to have been washed away recently? Or is that conclusion based only on a choice between slow erosion over a long time, or fast erosion over a short time?
[Tas Walker responds: There is just not the amount of scree that there should be if erosion had been going on for hundreds of thousands or millions of years--that is for slow erosion over a long time. It is not feasible to have great erosion in the area with the sort of physical processes that we see happening today without there being a lot of debris at the base of the escarpments.]